Tom Hanks broke out as a major comedic actor in the 1980s, first on the small screen with Bosom Buddies, then with major Hollywood hits including Splash and Big. But he very quickly went on to prove that he excels in both comedic and dramatic roles.
The California native won two Oscars in the 1990s—his first in 1994 for Philadelphia and a second the following year for Forrest Gump. Hanks has played America’s favorite neighbor, Mr. Rogers (in 2019’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) and has been a memorable part of so many childhoods as the voice of Toy Story’s Woody. His touchstone films and affable, even-keeled demeanor have solidified Hanks as one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars. And his enviable family life—his son Colin Hanks followed in his footsteps with acting while his long-lasting marriage to wife Rita Wilson has been deemed #couplegoals—makes Hanks the working family man so many either aspire to be or have in their lives.
Here are a few tidbits you may not know about one of Hollywood's favorite stars.
1. Tom Hanks is a distant relative of President Abraham Lincoln—and Mr. Rogers.
Hanks, who narrated National Geographic’s 2013 historical drama Killing Lincoln, boasts ancestral ties to the 16th president of the United States through Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks. The four-time Golden Globe winner is a third cousin, four times removed of Lincoln’s. The former president’s great-great-grandfather was John Hanks, who was also Tom's great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.
In 2019, Hanks also found out, thanks to researchers at Ancestry.com, that he shares some DNA with Mr. Rogers. “It all just comes together, you see,” Hanks teased when he learned the news from Access Hollywood.
2. Tom Hanks worked as a hotel bellman—and a peanut vendor.
Before finding fame, Hanks brushed up against stars when he worked as a bellhop for Hilton hotels during college (he spent two years studying theater at Chabot College before enrolling in California State University, Sacramento). “It's the greatest job, carrying bags for sports and entertainment figures,” Hanks told Seventeen in 1985. “I carried Cher's bags when she was married to Gregg Allman. I gave Sidney Poitier a ride to the airport.”
Hanks also used to sell concessions, including peanuts and sodas, at Oakland A’s games as a teenager. “I went down to sell peanuts and soda, and thinking it would be like in a TV show," he said on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2019. "Well, first of all, I got robbed twice ... Then, I came across professional vendors, who did not like the fact kids were there." Things turned out less hostile for Hanks when he returned to provide the voice for stadium vendors during A’s games in 2020.
3. Tom Hanks helped fund Forrest Gump.
When Paramount Pictures wouldn’t pay for the scene where Forrest runs across the country, Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis stepped in and footed the bill. "It wasn't cheap,” Hanks recalled on In Depth With Graham Bensinger. “And I said, ‘Ok.' [Zemeckis] said, 'You and I are going to split that amount, and we're going to give it back [to Paramount]. We'll give you the money back, but you guys [Paramount] are going to have to share the profits a little bit more.' Which the studio said, 'Fabulous, great. Ok.' And it was good for us, too." It sure was: Hanks ended up earning an estimated $65 million in profits from the box office hit.
4. Tom Hanks is an avid collector of typewriters.
In the 2017 documentary California Typewriter, Hanks estimated that he owns 250 typewriters and that "90 percent of them are in perfect working order. There is something I find reassuring, comforting, dazzling in that here is a very specific apparatus that is meant to do one thing, and it does it perfectly," Hanks, who received his first typewriter from a friend, told NPR of the devices. "And that one thing is to translate the thoughts in your head down to paper." His hobby eventually spawned a collection of short stories, 2017’s Uncommon Type.
5. Rita Wilson is Tom Hanks’s second wife.
In 1978, Hanks, then 21, married his college sweetheart Samantha Lewes, with whom he’d welcomed son Colin the year prior. They had another child, daughter Elizabeth Ann, in 1982. “I thought I was rolling along with the natural order of thing," Hanks told BBC’s Kirsty Young of having kids at a young age. He and Lewes divorced in 1987 and Hanks married Wilson, who he met in 1981 on the set of Bosom Buddies, in 1988. They have two kids together: sons Chet and Truman, born in 1990 and 1995, respectively.
6. Tom Hanks has an asteroid named after him.
NASA named the 12818 Tomhanks after the seven-time Emmy winner. His Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail co-star Meg Ryan serves as the namesake for the 8353 Megryan and the two asteroids, discovered seven years apart in different hemispheres, had a cosmic rendezvous when they made their closest approach to Earth in September 2011.
7. Tom Hanks earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Barack Obama awarded Hanks with the honor in 2016 for not only his film work, but his social and environmental justice efforts and advocacy on behalf of veterans and their families. Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Michael Jordan, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, and Cicely Tyson also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom the same year as Hanks.
8. Tom Hanks has been deemed America’s Favorite Actor.
In 2015, Hanks topped The Harris Poll’s ranking of America’s Favorite Movie Star for the fifth time, edging out Johnny Depp. Hanks also took the No. 1 spot in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2013.
9. COVID-19 came for Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson first.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to ramp up in the U.S. in March 2020, people wondered who would be the first Hollywood star to contract the virus. A fake report claiming that Harry Potter lead Daniel Radcliffe came down with coronavirus circulated online, but Radcliffe shot it down. On March 11, 2020, Hanks revealed on his social media accounts that he and Wilson tested positive for COVID-19 while in Australia for production on Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis Presley movie. They both recovered and proceeded to donate plasma to help the fight against COVID-19.
“Our discomfort because of the virus was pretty much done in two weeks and we had very different reactions, and that was odd,” Hanks told The Guardian. “My wife lost her sense of taste and smell, she had severe nausea, she had a much higher fever than I did. I just had crippling body aches, I was very fatigued all the time, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than about 12 minutes.”
10. The world celebrates international Tom Hanks day in april.
On April 2, 2004, a group of Western Michigan University students had a Hanks movie marathon and earmarked the day to honor the Greyhound star. They made T-shirts for the occasion and the holiday took off around campus. “It turned into just a backyard kegger where we hung out all day,” founder Kevin Turk told the Chicago Tribune. Turk brought International Tom Hanks Day—celebrated on the closest Saturday to April 1—with him to Chicago when he relocated to the Windy City after college and it continued to amass a following. The event, which will next happen on April 3, 2021, is going virtual this year to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic.